As kids go back to the classroom it seems that the complaints of budget cuts and the resulting overcrowding, bussing and lack of resources are being echoed across the entire province. It has even become so bad that some school administrators are asking for teaching items from parents. Schools have been opened for less than one month and already have started fundraising activities.
As residents of this province, we are all aware of this province’s unique financial position. It has been mentioned by government that, as a province, we pay more to service our debt than education. This is very alarming and in my opinion wrong. However, I believe there is no point to look back in the past and blame anyone for this mess. What we have to do is pick up the pieces and begin to plan for the future.
This is where the first challenge happens. Planning for the future is not government’s strong suit. By design, governments only look four years to the next election and devise ways to maintain power. This is one of the major flaws in our political system. Unfortunately education gets caught right in the middle of this short-sightedness. The education system cannot be fixed in four years and requires a strategic, long-term approach.
Education has a direct impact on what the future of our province will look like. Educating our children should be given the top priority and the politics should be removed. Where are our future leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs going to come from? If you guessed our children, then you would be right. The children that are in Grade 4-5 now are the future of this province in 10-15 years. Nothing can change this fact. By cutting the education budget to save a few dollars we are gambling with our future. We are currently operating with a 1.8 billion dollar debt. Cutting the education budget will make a very small impact to the debt while having a huge impact on our future. We might be able to make an attempt to balance the books or make someone look good, but at the end of the day we will pay way more in the future. There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Government is currently removing that ounce of prevention and hoping that the cure is not needed or that it will be needed when someone else is in power. This makes decisions easier as the decision makers of today will be long gone in 10 years.
To really shake things up, it will require a radical approach. Properly funding the education system in times of budget constraints would help to ensure the future leaders get the best opportunities to develop. I realize that we are in a financial crunch but I also believe that it is foolhardy to disadvantage the future in an attempt to correct past mistakes.
Jamie Warren is a native of Pasadena who lives and works in St. John's. He is a member of The Western Star's Community Editorial Board